Published March 20, 2019

Virginia Humanities is proud to announce three titles from the 2019 Virginia Festival of the Book as our inaugural group of “Virginia Humanities Staff Picks.” Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom, Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S. Jackson, and Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez all powerfully reflect our organization’s commitment to diverse and inclusive storytelling. These titles challenge and inspire us and will inform our work for countless years to come.

We invite our friends to join us in reading these 2019 staff picks. Those attending the Virginia Festival of the Book can also hear and meet McMillan Cottom, Jackson, and Olivarez at two public programs on Thursday, March 21, and Saturday, March 23. Event details are below.

Speaking Fearlessly: Tressie McMillan CottomBook cover - Thick And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
Thu. March 21, 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
Jefferson School African American Heritage Center
233 4th St NW, Charlottesville, VA 22903

Tressie McMillan Cottom (Thick) will read selections and discuss her collection of essays, in conversation with Deborah McDowell. Book sales and signing will follow. FREE to attend and open to the public.

Watch this book talk live on Facebook »

Why should you attend?

“To say this collection is transgressive, provocative, and brilliant is simply to tell you the truth. Thick is a necessary work and a reminder that Tressie McMillan Cottom is one of the finest public intellectuals writing today.” —Roxane Gay, author of Hunger

“Incisive, witty, and provocative essays. . . . The collection showcases McMillan Cottom’s wisdom and originality and amply fulfills her aim of telling powerful stories that become a problem for power.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The meshing of the personal and political and the author’s take-no-prisoners attitude make these essays sizzle. A provocative volume bound to stir argument and discussion.” —Kirkus Reviews

Book Cover - Citizen Illegal by Jose OlivarezFuture Tense: Writers You’ll be Reading for the Next 25 Years
Sat. March 23, 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Paramount Theater
215 E Main Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902

As three of the most exciting young writers today, Mitchell S. Jackson (Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family), José Olivarez (Citizen Illegal), and Sarah Smarsh (Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth) share and discuss their deeply personal works of nonfiction and poetry, each representing an eye-opening look into larger social and political issues in America. Moderated by Carlos Lozada, nonfiction book critic for The Washington Post. Book sales and signing will follow.

Tickets are $22.00 ($11.50 for students).

Book cover - Survival Math by Mitchell S. JacksonWhy should you attend?

“This is more than Jackson’s story, and as he traces his great-grandparents’ exodus from Alabama to Portland and the subsequent lives of his relatives… he captures the cyclical nature of poverty and neglect… The prose is a stunning mix of internal monologue and historical and religious references that he incorporates to tell his story… Thanks to Jackson’s fresh voice, this powerful autobiography shines an important light on the generational problems of America’s oft-forgotten urban communities.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

Citizen Illegal is right on time, bringing both empathy and searing critique to the fore as a nation debates the very humanity of the people who built it.”—Eve Ewing (Electric Arches)

“A deeply humane memoir that crackles with clarifying insight, Heartland is one of a growing number of important works that merit their own section in nonfiction aisles across the country: America’s postindustrial decline. With deft primers on the Homestead Act, the farming crisis of the ‘80s, and Reaganomics, Smarsh shows how the false promise of the ‘American dream’ was used to subjugate the poor. It’s a powerful mantra.”—New York Times Book Review

Explore More

Our work brings people together and honors our shared humanity.